Christian Heritage Day is StoneBridge School’s special annual event in which we celebrate God’s providential Hand in our nation’s history and embrace the original purposes of that most distinctly American holiday, Thanksgiving. A Providential view of history is an essential component of the Principle Approach methodology, challenging students to look at the history of our nation through “its true God-centered light (Slater, p. 19).Through careful study and thoughtful reflection upon the story of our nation’s forefathers, with a focus on the purposes of God, we delight in celebrating God’s evident hand in their lives and ultimately, in our lives today.
The words inscribed on the “Heritage” statue at the National Archives Building in our nation’s capital express the importance of faithfully reflecting upon this history: “The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.” This is why Christian Heritage Day is so important: reflecting on God’s providential hand in our history prepares the ground for that future harvest in our nation.
On Christian Heritage Day, our students travel back through time to the formative years of our nation’s founding. This year, we will remember the lives and individuals of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, which were used by God to bring the Gospel to our shores, and to be the example of representative government in our world.
On this special day, our students immerse themselves in the daily tasks of the Algonquian and Englishmen of the 17th century by experiencing learning stations, like Native American doll making and English candle making and much more. The students also gain a deeper understanding of our nation’s first permanent settlement during the Sabbath Chapel service.
One of the things historians have noted is that the Jamestown settlers started their day with prayer and scripture. Their pastor, Rev. Robert Hunt, believed that God’s Providence led the settlers to the Virginia coast, to inhabit the land, and to proclaim the Gospel. These English soldiers and gentlemen used the Geneva Bible, which was used by the English Puritan reformers throughout England. When they landed at Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, the colonists erected a cross and buried a copy of the Bible in the sand to dedicate the land to God.
“We do hereby dedicate this land, and ourselves, to reach the people within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth.” -Parson Robert Hunt, Cape Henry, Virginia (Lyons, p.67)
Unlike the Plymouth colony of Pilgrim Separatists, God sent “adventurers” without a Biblical purpose. But after their many hardships of famine, disease, and native captivity, and through the patient preaching of their pastors, God’s purpose for the settlement of Jamestown and other English colonies became evident. True Gospel liberty brought forth the first representative assembly in the new world.
Captain John Smith and the Princess Pocahontas, the first known native convert in the New World, were providential instruments in the success of Jamestown. Smith worked hard to help the unruly settlers achieve the working character needed to survive and to be representative of Biblical principles of government. Pocahontas made a remarkable journey into Christian womanhood, becoming a wife and then mother to generations of self-governing Virginians.
The Jamestown settlement was flawed and not without its significant failures. While providentially used to establish a biblical form of government, it was also the location where the first African indentured servants landed. While civil and religious freedom were being cultivated in the northern Plymouth Colony, the seeds of bondage were first planted in Virginia’s soil here.
These two threads, liberty and bondage, are interwoven in our nation’s history and Jamestown exemplifies that paradox. Robert Moton, second Principal of Tuskegee Institute, who delivered the keynote address at the Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, envisioned how the blessing of liberty and the curse of slavery coexisted until God, in His Providence, broke this curse.
“Here then, upon American soil within a year, met the two great forces that were to shape the destiny of the nation. They developed side by side. Freedom was the great compelling force that dominated all, and like a great and shining light, beckoned the oppressed of every nation to the hospitality of these shores. But slavery like a brittle thread was woven year by year into the fabric of the nation’s life.”
“In the process of time, as was inevitable, these great forces, the forces of liberty and the forces of bondage, from the ships at Plymouth and Jamestown, met in open conflict upon the field of battle. And how strange it is, through the same overruling Providence, that children of those who bought and sold their fellows into bondage should be among those who cast aside ties of language, of race, of religion and even of kinship, in order that a people not of their own race, or primarily of their own creed or color, but sharing a common humanity, should have the same measure of liberty and freedom which they themselves enjoyed.” –Robert Russa Moton, at the Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, 1922 (Ford, p.128)
Despite its flaws and failures, we honor the providential planting of the Jamestown colony in order to faithfully reflect upon God’s mighty acts in our nation’s Christian history. By understanding America’s heritage of Christian character, our children will know who they are today and be able to walk into the future, confident in the knowledge that the providential hand of God – the Lord of the Harvest – will guide and bless the individual, and the nation, that calls Him Lord. (Psalm 33:12)
Ford, W. and Lockett, M., The Dream King, 2018, pp. 127-128.
Lyons, Max. Celebrate Our Christian Holidays Like You Were There. The Biblical Thinker, 2012.
Slater, Rosalie. Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, Foundation of American Christian Education, 1965.